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Possible MLB Rule Changes: Universal DH? Roster size? Anti-tanking?

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Union are always searching for ways to improve the game. Under MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, one of the biggest focuses has been pace of play. How can baseball speed up their games and keep younger fans interested in the action on the field?

Some of the latest proposals by MLB and the MLBPA could help to alleviate some of the issues.
Image courtesy of © Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Three-batter minimum
This rule would result in a pitcher being required to pitch to a minimum of three batters upon entering a game. For teams, this could significantly reduce the number of pitching changes made by managers. It could also speed up games for team’s that like to change pitchers in the middle of an inning. During last year’s playoffs, the Brewers used left-handed pitcher Wade Miley for one batter before replacing him with right-handed pitcher Brandon Woodruff. This type of move wouldn’t be possible under this possible rule change.

Universal designated hitter
The MLBPA continues to push for a universal DH and they would like to have it in place for the 2019 season. That seems highly unlikely at this point. Offensive has been down across baseball so adding a DH in the National League could add some more offensive to the game. However, none of these teams have been preparing to add a DH to their roster. I believe this rule will happen at some point, but I don’t think it will be in place for the 2019 season.

20-second pitch clock
One of the rules proposed by MLB last year was the implementation of a 20-second pitch clock. Manfred could put this rule in to affect for the 2019 campaign. Pitch clocks have been used in the minor leagues, so some players have already started to be accustomed to having them as part of the game. I think the pitch clock is coming and it might be happening for the current season.

Mound visits
Another rule that MLB can implement this year is reducing the number of mound visits from six to five. In their most recent proposal, MLB would like to reduce mound visits from six to four in 2019. Then in 2020, they would like the number of mound visits to be reduced to three. This seems like a large jump over a two-year span and I think the MLBPA will try to slow this process down.

Roster size
MLB would also like to expand rosters to 26 players starting in 2020. Along with that, they would like to reduce September rosters from 40 to 28. Expanding rosters from 25 to 26 would create 30 more big-league jobs and allow teams to be strategic as to what type of player they would like to have on the roster. Do they want another arm in the bullpen? Do they want a power bat for the bench? I don’t like the idea of reducing September roster sizes. We already see teams manipulate service time without using September call-ups and this seems like another way for teams to do that.

Anti-tanking
One of the ideas the player’s union would like addressed is the idea of teams tanking over multiple years to get a higher draft pick. In recent memory, the Astros did this to acquire high picks over multiple years. From this, they have built a very strong roster. The union would like a team’s draft position to be lowered if the club fails to reach a certain number of wins across multiple seasons.

What rule changes would you like to see? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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141 Comments

DH/No DH: Just pick one and be consistent.

Expand roster: Absolutely.

Three hitters rule: This just seems silly, and an act of desperation.

Tanking: I thought the problem was cheating via PEDs; not people trying to lose.

 

Dear Baseball: Make the minor leagues more attractive to young talent instead of slave pens, and maybe you'll raise the calibre of the major league graduates. Fix those rules.

    • beckmt, Sconnie, Minny505 and 1 other like this

Maybe the sides can come up with a plan to make salary work for all teams.I just dislike the Miami main owner, who has done this in other sports, buy the team, make good money for 5 - 10 years and then sell at a huge profit (usually be threatening to sell to a buyer who would move the club to drive up the local price). This same thing is going to happen here in Tampa (where I winter), if they cannot resolve the stadium issue.Making owners spend money to a minimum floor will at least fix some of the issues as far as player salaries go, but the playing field must be close to level.

If they want to improve the game, make fans sit down during the inning. I go to watch the game not to constantly have to look around fans in the aisle heading for the consession. I suspect those fans who complain about the pace of play don't watch the game much anyway.

    • ashburyjohn likes this

 

If Manfred and MLB were TRULY concerned about pace of play they would cut down the length between innings (especially national games), but they wont because thats where the ad revenue comes in. 

Time between innings isn't really a "pace of play" issue -- that would be game length. Although even there, studies have shown the game length is more influenced by the extra idle time between pitches (the real "pace of play" problem):

 

https://www.sbnation...iew/game-length

 

    • gil4 likes this
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SF Twins Fan
Feb 06 2019 10:41 AM
As other people have said if they expand the roster size to 26 then they have to limit the number of pitchers allowed. 13 pitcher and 13 hitters otherwise there will be more specialists, more pitching changes, less offense and longer games.
    • Mike Sixel, nicksaviking, dbminn and 3 others like this

 

Regarding he pace of the game, baseball needs to understand it is not a game of constant activity like football or basketball. It's just not the nature of the game. A 3-hour constest is not really that much longer then the length of football games. Also, on the court we have to spend 30 minutes to watch the last two minutes of the game. Others have they're issues of being spectator friendly too.

Just a thought, will increasing the roster tend to slow things down. That would likely solidify 13 pitchers, allowing more mound visits to change pitchers.To speed it up maybe discontinue walks and insert a 3-pitch max per batter. (Tongue firmly in cheek, maybe.)

 

Problem is, virtually every NFL game is right around 3 hours, even postseason. In baseball, 3 hours is just the average -- there's a lot more variation, and you wind up with quite a few 3:30+ games too. And even that average balloons in the postseason -- I recall there was maybe 1 game this past postseason that was below 3 hours.

 

Perhaps more importantly, the vast majority of baseball games are played in the evening (weekday evenings, no less). While the vast majority of football games are played on weekend afternoons.

 

Add in the daily baseball vs the weekly football, and it's clear that 3 hours isn't equivalent in those contexts.

 

Basketball games are only ~2 hours, so while they can drag at the end if they're close, they've got some wiggle room to do that. And I'm not a NBA fan, but I believe they made some rule changes in recent years to keep those situations under control a bit better. While MLB, to date, has done virtually nothing (no, the zero-pitch intentional walk didn't help).

 

You're right that increasing the roster could slow things down further, which would make it even more important to make some real pace of play / game length changes.

    • brvama and TheLeviathan like this

As other people have said if they expand the roster size to 26 then they have to limit the number of pitchers allowed. 13 pitcher and 13 hitters otherwise there will be more specialists, more pitching changes, less offense and longer games.


This. For sure.
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nicksaviking
Feb 06 2019 10:42 AM

The three batter minimum rule seems to be getting the most push-back, which I understand as it is the most impactful, even more so than the DH. I'd be really curious to see how it played out though. Will it make guys who can ONLY go one inning marginalized? The staple 2000's bullpen of six one inning relievers and one mop-up guy couldn't work any longer could it?

 

Seems to me that would force teams to start carrying more traditional starters in the pen. So even without thinking about options, it would seem like guys like Romero, Gonsalves and Mejia would need to be on the big club instead of guys like Busenitz, Moya and Curtis. 

 

Would these multi-inning BP roles for young relievers turn into a defacto waiting list for starting gigs instead of waiting things out in AAA?

 

Also, I'd have to think it would help extend the careers of aging starting pitchers. A Clay Buchholz or Ervin Santana may be a better fit than say Brad Boxberger. So aside from the decrease in strikeouts due to playing matchups, I'd think some of the guys who typically get strikeouts would be replaced by guys who don't.

 

If you have a BP made up of more guys than not that go multiple innings will teams go back to seven man bullpens? Or dare I speak it, six? With that 26th man could teams possibly go with a five or six man bench?

 

Also, it sure would make it more enticing to be a switch hitter again and it would decrease shifting. You'd still have shifting, but if you can't dictate righty/lefty matchups at will, it won't be happening every at bat.

 

I might also think this would actually help the traditional use of the starters. The good starters who don't have awful RH/LH splits won't be pulled for a LOOGY in the 5th, it will be more incumbent on the team to have it's best pitcher out there, not their best pitcher against a specific batter. 200 IP might become a realistic goal again and maybe we'll see another 300 win pitcher!

 

Plenty of questions with doing this though. Losing some strategy seems to be the biggest thing. I don't know though, current strategy would basically be shelved, but I think a more complex strategy would be developed. Would a team bait the other with a reliever to see if the other manager will use TWO of his bench players in the same inning? Do you save your best relievers for the highest pressure situation, or do you save him to face the big bench bat that you know the other manager is saving? 

 

Originally at the top of my post I said I was just playing Devi's Advocate, but then I ended up talking myself into really wanting to see how this would play out. I like trying new things, of course that's with the understanding that I'm not opposed to dropping the new thing if it doesn't work out.

 

 

    • SD Buhr and Dave The Dastardly like this
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Intramural Legend
Feb 06 2019 10:47 AM

I love the idea of the three batter minimum!This seems like the only proposal that will have a meaningful impact on the pace of play!It is pretty much a given that the 7-9th innings will have multiple extra commercial breaks.

 

Also, my understanding is that the end of an inning will fulfill any requirements, so you can still use the loogy to get out of a jam...he just better succeed.I think the strategy stays in the game, it just changes.

 

Also, are there still may players that still adjust their gloves between pitches, or is this still battle scars from Nomar?It seems like he is still the poster child for slow play, but hasn't actually been part of the game for nearly a decade. 

Universal DH - Yes. I don't want to see pitchers bat. But the DH is all I've known and I like dingers vs double switches and pitchers weakly grounding out 85% of the time.

Pitch clock - Yes

Roster size - Absolutely. Gimme Tortuga. Limiting it to 28 in September seems silly though

3 Batter minimum-Could take it or leave it. 

    • DocBauer likes this

 

If they want to improve the game, make fans sit down during the inning. I go to watch the game not to constantly have to look around fans in the aisle heading for the consession. I suspect those fans who complain about the pace of play don't watch the game much anyway.

I wouldn't generalize too much, but I'd guess that people get up during an inning more often when they expect the game to run 3+ hours, as compared to a game they expect could run only 2+ hours.

 

Put another way: shorter games, with a quicker pace of play, would incentivize more fans to sit and watch the action. Not everyone, of course.

    • SD Buhr likes this

 

The three batter minimum rule seems to be getting the most push-back, which I understand as it is the most impactful

 

 

I love the idea of the three batter minimum!This seems like the only proposal that will have a meaningful impact on the pace of play! 

 

While it might seem that way, it's not so. Pitching changes are not responsible for the bulk of slowdowns or increased game length. It's simply extra idle time between pitches that is adding up:

 

https://www.sbnation...iew/game-length

 

Edit to add: one can still be opposed to pitching changes and modern SP/RP usage, of course, on aesthetic grounds. But it's not really a primary driver of pace or game length issues.

    • ashburyjohn likes this
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biggentleben
Feb 06 2019 10:56 AM

The two I'd talk on would be the DH. I'm very anti-DH, but I'd like to see one rule across the league. I do think you could see where Jerry Crasnik's influence in the MLBPA begins to show up here. Crasnik once proposed an option that would be interesting where he suggested the DH be tied to the starting pitcher. Once the starter goes out, the team either has to remove the reliever when the DH spot comes up in the lineup to retain the DH or let the reliever hit/use a pinch hitter.

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ashburyjohn
Feb 06 2019 11:41 AM

Change the rule on foul balls so that it's four strikes and you're out. That would have sped up at least one game:

 

a one-time-per-at-bat limit for adjusting batting gloves. do it a second time and you're outta the game.


This for me is the big one. Stop granting "time" to the better between each and every freaking pitch. Only grant "time" after the third and fifth pitches, for example.

I hate the freakin' DH. Dump it completely. Replace it in both leagues with the FREE HITTER. Pitchers bat, and a team gets one free pinch hit at bat per game (announced as the Free Hitter). The player who was pinch hit for stays in the lineup, and the free hitter returns to the bench to possibly be used in the game later.

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IndianaTwin
Feb 06 2019 11:59 AM

DH: It seems weird to have two different rules, but there's something unique (and quirky, in a good sense) about having to manage and play in different styles. If they maintain the current difference, I do wish they would flip-flop the pattern, however. Use AL rules in the NL park and vice versa. That would give NL fans the chance to see the Edgar Martinezes and Nelson Cruzes of the world and give AL fans the chance to see the supposed intricacies of the NL game. 

 

Pitch clock: From what I've heard at the minor league level, this seems to have worked with comparably little effort. It would be interesting to see the breakdowns of guys who have pitched in the minors since that rule started. Have they continued to pitch more quickly when they get to the majors, or do they revert to prior patterns? But I'm for this rule change. 

 

Mound visits: Having six didn't seem to mess with the game much. If the desire was to shorten things, the next logical step is to try five, it seems. 

 

Roster size: Currently, it seems like the dilemma in roster construction, at least for AL teams, is whether to go with 12 or 13 pitchers. With a change, my hunch is that in the short term, most teams would settle on a 13/13 balance. Who knows how the game will change over time, however. For September, I get the arguments. It's nice to give guys opportunity for September callups, but making big changes to the roster during the pennant race doesn't seem right, either. I have a friend who's a AAAA player, and it's clearly been a reward for him to get a couple September call-ups based on a job well done. 

 

Anti-tanking: Uh, there's always going to be a way to try beating the system, and I'm not sure what they can do. 

 

Three-batter minimum: One of the things I worry about with significant changes are the unintended consequences. The 10-day DL, for example, was designed to let teams put guys on the DL a little more easily with minor injuries, but it's turned into a tool for roster manipulation. On the surface, a three-batter minimum might make some sense, but who knows how it would play out in actuality. And unfortunately, there's not a good way to test it, since the minor leagues seem to rarely do one-batter outings. 

While it might seem that way, it's not so. Pitching changes are not responsible for the bulk of slowdowns or increased game length. It's simply extra idle time between pitches that is adding up:

https://www.sbnation...iew/game-length

Edit to add: one can still be opposed to pitching changes and modern SP/RP usage, of course, on aesthetic grounds. But it's not really a primary driver of pace or game length issues.

I concur that is the problem, idle time between pitches... Remember when John Lackey took 6 minutes to throw 6 pitches?

https://deadspin.com...jail-1819503434
    • Danchat likes this

I've always had what I think is a fun idea for the DH. Rather than have one DH for the game, have the DH spot be a unique pinch hitter role.

 

What I mean is that the DH spot in the lineup is really a pinch hitter spot in the lineup that can be filled by any player who is eligible to enter the game. When batting as the DH with this rule their eligibility to DH is used. That player can still enter the game at any point as any non-starter under the current rules, meaning they could potentially pinch hit twice.

 

This means that pretty much every bench player takes at least one at bat each game. Double switches are still a thing so if you want to have your glove first OF hit in the 7th inning with two outs and nobody on, you can then move the DH spot to the six spot in the lineup from the ninth spot, replacing the Jay Bruce's of the lineup.

 

The few good hitting pitchers in the league can still take an AB on their off day if the manager would like to save their best bats for lead off or RBI situations.

 

Once in extra innings, DH eligibility is reset for any players still eligible to enter the game never expires. This protects from being forced to have pitchers ever bat.

 

It's probably a terrible idea in practice, but seems like a nice blend of current DH rules and the "strategy" of having pitchers bat, which is really more a of a strategy of how to use pinch hitters effectively when you strip away the facade of pitchers actually hitting.

The pace of play is the main issue. Time between action. Fix that, and the length will also drop.....

What if a RP just didn't have it? Leanne him in for another batter or two? That just makes no sense to me at all. It's like making zone defense illegal. Or the shift illegal. In game action isn't the issue here....
    • DocBauer likes this

First, I don't think the pace of play is a problem. Were it, I don't think any of the proposed rule changes will affect the pace of play enough to address the "problem". Shortening the overall game length by five or so minutes will not make the game any more appealling to people who already think that baseball is boring. They will not notice any difference.

 

A diffinitive characteristic of baseball, in contrast to other team sports, is that there is not clock or timer. While all of the other major team sports rely on a clock as a necessary part of the structure that makes their sport possible, baseball was uniquely designed and created to not need one. Keep clocks out of baseball.

 

It seems like the roster expansion runs in conflict with the aims of quickening pace and shortening game length. In particular, if there were a three batter minimum, it reasons that fewer pitchers will be used per game. It seems like an additional player available will increase the amount of pitching changes per game, therefor lengthening the duration of games.

 

I think, pace aside, the three batter minimum rule could encourage managers to return to relying on starters in a more traditional way, asking them to pitch deeper into games than has been the recent trend. It seems like often when a manager goes to an early hook (in anticipation of damage, not as a result of) they often bring in a one out specialist. I don't really like the trend away from reliance on starting pitching. I think that starters are the best pitchers, and I want to see them pitch. I want to see what they are made of when the going gets tough.

 

As for the DH in the NL... who cares. The NL is Mars. Let them be Martians, and when on Mars, do as the Martians do. 

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TheLeviathan
Feb 06 2019 01:13 PM

I'm for the pitch clock.

 

Universal DH needs to happen.There are only emotional arguments for having pitchers bat (like, "that's how it's always been", "I like it better") whereas it's an objective fact that having pitchers hit leads to terribly unathletic/non-competitive moments in games.Any arguments about "strategy" really boil down to one thing - in the NL, you try really hard not to have those moments happen.All you're strategically doing is avoiding the thing you say you want to keep around - pitchers hitting.

 

So just do away with it.AL managers still use the hit and run and (too often) the bunt.They just use those strategies in an effort to score runs rather than desperately avoid some hack with a .150 batting average.

    • Dman and DocBauer like this
Anti-Tanking - Of the teams that didn’t make the playoffs, the team with the best record gets first overall pick. Descend through the picks until you get to the worst-record team. The remaining picks in the first round are awarded to the playoff teams in the same order as today. Dissuades tanking. Helps fringe teams get over the hump.

26 man roster - Yes. But limit pitchers to 13

Universal DH - I don’t follow any NL teams closely, so I don’t really care. I kind of like the current system for nostalgia, but I’ve got no dog in this fight.

Pace of Play - No warmup pitches on the mound for replacement pitchers. And, when a pitcher is replaced mid-inning, any television commercials should be aired in a split screen with the game. The biggest slow down in the game today are bullpenning and commercial breaks in combination. This helps speed up both.

Mound Visits - Such a non-factor. Even a long mound visit adds, what? 35 seconds to a game? Challenges and Reviews take longer and those were just introduced a few seasons ago.

Baseball is such a great game as is and if I had it my way, I wouldn’t change much, if anything. But I understand the incentive to make the game more appealing to younger audiences. I think what the league has done to stop discouraging bat flips and celebrations, and hire new, younger announcers who embrace new analytics and statcast overlays do a lot more to engage new audiences than reducing mound visits or pitching changes will.

If they really wanted to get new, younger audiences, they’d make it easier for fans to watch games outside of typical cable TV packages. As soon as they can figure out how to make the same or more money doing that as they do with Comcast deals, the younger fans will come. No one under the age of 30 uses regular broadcast television as their main source of entertainment anymore. That’s where the league needs to evolve. I should be able to watch my hometown team on any device I choose, anywhere I choose, at any time I choose.

I’m personally not afraid of Baseball going away because of younger audiences. I am a little concerned about what the current commissioner and leadership could do to destroy the game in the hopes of saving it, though.
    • Dave The Dastardly likes this
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TheLeviathan
Feb 06 2019 01:21 PM

 

If they really wanted to get new, younger audiences, they’d make it easier for fans to watch games outside of typical cable TV packages. As soon as they can figure out how to make the same or more money doing that as they do with Comcast deals, the younger fans will come. No one under the age of 30 uses regular broadcast television as their main source of entertainment anymore. That’s where the league needs to evolve. I should be able to watch my hometown team on any device I choose, anywhere I choose, at any time I choose.

 

It doesn't solve all your problems, but reddit streams are a beautiful way to say "screw you" to sports leagues and get to watch your favorite teams.

    • KirbyDome89 likes this

 

I don't like the 3-batter minimum. Too arbitrary, and too many unintended consequences would arise. Don't take more strategy out of the game, nor add incentives for subterfuge ("hey Meat, tell the ump, your shoulder hurts").

 

Agreed, the 3-batter rule is horrible and would just erode the game further. Think about it - playoffs, bottom of the 8th inning, you've got Taylor Rodgers coming in to face Bryce Harper. The best lefty against the best lefty. One huge at bat, one big moment for the game. Fans like me really enjoy that stuff, and I think most people who are fans of the game would agree.

 

The problem with most of the rule changes seem to be aiming to do 2 things:

 

1. Speed up the game

2. Make the game enjoyable for "non-baseball fans"

 

Meanwhile, they completely alienate the baseball fans that do currently exist. What's next? Should we have fans vote live for "Swing" or "Take"? Hook up an x-box to the pitcher's mound and allow fans to decide of he throws a curve or a fastball? Maybe we should just have American Idol judges choose the teams? Or maybe give the kid with the most instagram followers a spot on the roster?

 

It's like they are just pandering to the lowest-common denominator. The All-Star Game Fan Vote is already one of the worst and most bush league pieces of garbage in existence. Stop changing the game because some 22 year-old social media aggregator tells you to, and have faith in the sport you oversee, Mr. Manfred.

 

 

    • Nine of twelve likes this

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